Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Vegas, Here We Come

Travel There – Getting There Is Not Half the Fun

There was a time when flying Southwest was a blast, but that was a long time ago. They’ve “improved” things since then. By flying Southwest you were doing a very Dallas thing and you were rooting for the underdog, both of which I loved. Now, it’s just another airline and the whole “no assigned seat” thing, which used to be sort of fun, has morphed into an absolute pain in the neck. The only thing Southwest has going for it, as far as we’re concerned, is that Love Field is a lot closer to Heath than DFW.

Thankfully, this was an easy trip. Early, but somehow they all seem to be. We sort of miscalculated the time, but it worked out ok, because we were able to walk from the car onto the plane with virtually no stops. At the Las Vegas end, the package we won included transfers, so with minimal hassle we were dropped off at the Paris resort to begin our vacation.

Welcome to Paris!

Though we were not guaranteed to have any particular resort in Vegas, they said it would be on The Strip and they asked where we’d like to say. I said Paris, because I always thought that would be a cool place to stay.

I’d been to Vegas before, but never for pleasure. Once, when Bill and I were on the way to California, he stopped in for some stock traders event at the Flamingo and we stayed off The Strip. Another time we stayed in the Sahara, also for a stock trader’s event. That was a bad choice. Cheap and convenient, but way past it’s days of glory. The only other time I was there, Bill had been in Iraq and I went to a convention with my sister-in-law. We somehow managed to stay at the Luxor and that was very nice.

I’d visited the Paris on one of those trips and for some reason had been impressed by it. I also liked the picture of the rooms I looked at after I knew that’s where we had been booked. Arriving for our stay, I couldn’t imagine why I’d been so impressed with the Paris in my previous visit. In my memory, the lobby had been grander and not stuffed in every corner with slot machines and gaming tables. I guess they had “improved” it at some point. At least the registration area held on to its grandeur.

It probably didn’t help that our van dropped us off at some ignominious back door, instead of the glitzy art nouveau main entrance. We had to drag our luggage all the way across the casino to find registration. That did not jive exactly with the entry into our glamourous Las Vegas vacation I had imagined.

It was still morning when we arrived and let’s face it, unless you’re up for a buffet, there’s not much to do. Bill was not up for a buffet, so we paid $56 for early check-in and my disappointment continued. Shabby chic was once a decorating trend, but these sad, worn out furnishings didn’t qualify and the trend has passed. Our rooms was sort of like a furnished apartment in a college town, but the furnishing had happened decades before and since then everything in the room had been abused. Even the carpet looked as if it should have been replaced several years ago.

However, it was clean, so we counted our blessings and reminded ourselves it was free. Had it not been, we would have probably demanded a refund and moved over to the Bellagio. We also had what must be the worst view in the hotel. We could only see the roof of the casino and all the equipment on it. We closed the curtains and went in search of some coffee.

Come back next week and have coffee with us in the Paris lobby.

Accommodations, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

My Vegas Slots

Travel There – and Get It for Free

Shortly after I won the trip to Vegas I was getting my hair done and Loree, the goddess of hair, who also happens to be my friend, told me she would also be heading to Vegas soon. So we compared notes.

Her travel secret is Facebook Groups. She travels a lot and wherever she’s going, she finds a FB group or two to follow. I confess to being a FB dinosaur. If doesn’t happen on my Newsfeed, then as far as I’m concerned, it didn’t happen at all.

It’s not that I haven’t tried out groups before, it’s that there was entirely too much useless chatter and I don’t know these people! I don’t know their priorities or their taste or their budget. Why would I follow their advice?

In fact, I don’t pay much attention to all that recommendation/review noise on the internet. Even if I know you, you’re not going to be able to influence me much. For instance a relative told me not to stay at the Mena House in Giza or go to Alexandria. This is someone who has been to Egypt many, many times. They should know right?

Was she ever wrong! My stay at the Mena House was one of my favorites – ever. And Alexandria? She was right that it is past its former glory, but it was still a fascinating place to visit and we had a blast. The Royal Jewelry Museum there is one of best I’ve seen and it’s in a beautiful old mansion. So, rather than take folks’ recommendation, I do a lot of my own research, but chances are I won’t be reading your online review.

However, Loree didn’t give me any reviews, she told me about an app – My Vegas Slots. I shouldn’t get started on apps, but we’re there. You can keep your apps. Give me a good old guide book with maps any day.

Every time I allow myself to depend on an app, it lets me down. I don’t even trust a GPS. Too many times a GPS has sent me in the wrong direction or just flaked out at critical moment or took me to a place that moved or closed. And that’s just the GPS. Almost every time I try to use a travel app to get around a destination, it’s a disaster. I don’t know if that’s the app’s fault or mine, but it doesn’t work for me.

However, the app Loree was talking about wasn’t really a travel app. It was a game that paid out in free Las Vegas stuff. We downloaded it while I was in the chair and I had hundreds of thousands of points before I left her shop.

A New Obsession

The next morning I sat at my desk and took inventory of the free stuff I could supposedly win on the app. It was good stuff! Free meals, free drinks and even rides on the monorail.

The next trick was redeeming my points. While you can start playing My Vegas Slots without giving them any information, if you want to redeem anything, you have to give them all the usual stuff that helps hackers get into your life. The app is sponsored by MGM Resorts and all you’re actually doing is signing up for their Rewards Program and you do it on their site, so I did it.

I redeemed some of my points and I was hooked. Because I am me, I went through the entire catalog of prizes and listed them on a sheet paper, in order of my interest in them along with the number of points they’d take. After that, every free moment of my time my face was glued to my phone, playing the stupid slots games.

And when I got to Vegas, I used the coupons I earned. A free drink here, a bogo buffet there and a free gelato at the Bellagio. Yes, My Vegas Slots is legit and if you get serious about collecting and using them, you can certainly be a winner in Las Vegas without even going to the tables.

Come back next week and lets head out!

Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

The Covid Effect & The Drawing

Travel There – We’re Not Going Anywhere!

Covid 19 became a thing in February of 2020, while Bill and I were on a vacation in Arizona. Little did we know it would be our last travel experience for a while. In fact, I already had plans to visit NYC with my bestie in April. We’d also signed up for one of those “Vacation Club” deals and planned to go to California during the holiday season. Instead we stayed home with the rest of the world. NYC was an impossible destination and while I planned various variations of the California trip, we went nowhere during the holidays.

In July of 2021 we made the trek to Michigan to visit family, but the pandemic certainly took a bite out of our time together. The whole air travel experience was awful and ridiculously expensive. The Grand Hotel, usually bustling with trade, was almost a ghost town. We didn’t have to wear masks, but the threat hung over everything.

When we came home from Michigan, we started talking about how to use our “Vacation Club” deal. We set things up for early October, but we could never agree on what to do with our time. Masks were still a thing in California, Bill had family he wanted to visit and I had friends I wanted to see. Because of our business we couldn’t stay away from home for long. In the end, we just decided to blow it off. In fact, it just seemed like too much trouble to travel anywhere, so we decided to blow off travel altogether until the world was better.

And the Winner of the Las Vegas Vacation is Jane Sadek

If you read any of my “At the Whim of the Gods” narrative, offered serially in the absence of any recent travel stories during the pandemic, then you know I often feel as if the gods are tossing me about for their own entertainment when I travel. It’s the only way some things make sense.

If make a commitment not to travel for a year to afford a special cruise, the gods arrange for me to win, not one, but two vacations. I book that special cruise and a few days later we have a disaster at a rent house, that takes a year to resolve and during it all, the last thing Bill wants to do is talk about which shore excursions we’ll take or to help plan our vow renewal. So, Bill and I argue about travel and decide we’re just not going to go anywhere, and what happens, I win a trip to Las Vegas.

Oktoberfest at Hyatt Place Rockwall

It happened like this. Through my networking connections I was invited to a grand opening celebration at the new Hyatt Place in Rockwall. It was in October, so there was an Oktoberfest theme with pretzels and beer. We had a grand old time. There was also a sort of scavenger hunt that sent you throughout the hotel to discover people and areas of interest.

I take my games seriously anyway, but the prize for this was a trip to Vegas. I have already been to Vegas and it’s really not my kind of town, but a free trip is a free trip. I finished up the scavenger hunt, with Bill scoffing at my heels, and went back to eating pretzels and drinking beer. There was a big roll up to the drawing and we were feeling a little silly, so when they called my name, we couldn’t even believe it – especially since we’d already won a couple of other prizes.

I chatted with the nice people who were sending me to Vegas and found out it wasn’t just a hotel room. Our airfare would also be included. OK then, we’re going to Vegas. We decided it would be fun to go during the holidays, so we chose four days in early December.

Come back next week and find out all about VEGAS BABY!!

Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

A Gastric Disappointment

Travel There – Chicago’s Millennial Park

The Bean

As I’ve mentioned before, Bill and I travel differently. I have my list and I want to check stuff off. Bill likes to meander. It’s not that I don’t like to meander. It’s just that I want to meander around something on my list.

At this point I wanted to meander over to Millennial Park and eat at Park Grill, but Bill just wanted to meander. He had no clue about where he was, what he was looking at or what was missing that might be more enjoyable. He just wanted to meander. So we did – for a while.

A Gastric Disappointment

One of my favorite memories from a previous visit to Chicago was lunch at the Park Grill in Millennium Park. Bill had been in a training class, so he had not joined me, but the memory of that lunch stuck with me. Yes, the burger had been good and the service attentive, but the real treat had been sitting in the middle of everything, watching it go by.

I’d done my homework and according to their Facebook page, Covid had closed down the Park Grill, but it was supposed to open just in time for me to share it with Bill. Not only was I getting hungry, but the meandering had not exactly offered up much in the way of entertainment. We finally turned towards my destination.

But wait, what’s this! I could see Millennial Park across the street but we had happened upon Chicago Cultural Center. As much as I wanted to get over there and find Park Grill, I took a deep breath and agreed we should go in and look around the Cultural Center. It is a remarkable building with beautiful architectural feature. Should you go to Chicago I think you should take a look at it, so I was not going to deny Bill a peek, just because I was anxious about what was next.


Awestruck by what we’d seen, we finally headed across the street, but there was no Park Grill. Their Facebook page had promised they’d opened a few days before, but there was nada. Now, I felt as I did when we stood at the empty showroom at the Merchandising Mart. Had I made a mistake about where it was? I didn’t think so, but just like at the Merchandising Mart NO ONE was there to help us. Of course, there was an app for the Millennial Park, but it told me less than I remembered from my previous visit.

The schism continued. Bill was still in meander mode. He hadn’t been to Park Grill, so he didn’t know what he was missing. He also wasn’t hungry yet, so he he wasn’t suffering in any way. I was desperate to find any food, but in particular I wanted the damned Park Grill to appear before me. Instead we discovered all the lovely sights below.

Bill was happy to wander all over Millennial Park and to watch the fountains forever, but finally I made him understand I was about ready to start chewing off my own flesh, if he didn’t feed me – and soon. Using good old google, we located a Shake Shack across the street and went for it.

Now, you may be a big fan of Shake Shack and probably don’t even have to look at the menu when you walk in to get your burger fix. Well, we didn’t know our way around and the wall full of icons and pricing didn’t help us one bit. We stood there lost as we had been for most of the day.

I am a Texan. I grew up in Dallas and now I live out in a teeny town on the edge of suburban Rockwall. Down here, we keep an eye out for one another and if someone looks the least bit as if they’re not sure where they are, someone offers to help them out. As I’ve noted elsewhere, Chicagoans don’t seem to have a ready eye to help anyone. Their eyes are glued to their phones. They don’t even look at each other. They may have to walk around you to get by, but they are still not going to talk to you. Heck, they won’t even look up from their phone!

Eventually, we did figure out something to order. I really wanted to try one of those Shake Shack Shakes, but Bill believes all fast food should be consumed with free tap water. I thought that after watching them go by during our entire meal, he might be tempted to share one for dessert. I may have even suggested it. He probably said, “Maybe next time,” which in Bill speak is, “Tough beans. I’m never darkening the door of a Shake Shack in my life!”

To start the day with dreams of re-living my Park Grill experience with the man I love and find myself at Shake Shack without the hope of a shake is a long way to fall in one day. It was time to meander back to our car, find our way to the airport and play that game. By the end of the day, we were home.

Come back next week and see where we are headed next!

DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Surprising a Friend

Travel There -Evanston to the Chicago Merchandising Mart

Ludger and Bill Swap Tales

Breakfast at Le Peep

This day had a treat waiting for us, but the first stop was breakfast. For for that, we went to the Le Peep we’d found the night before. Delightful Evanston remained delightful. We walked to the restaurant and like Terra & Vine, it was a neighborhood thing. The waitress knew everyone and all the patrons knew each other. The food was good and so was the service. An added pleasure was a community group having a meeting over breakfast and we enjoyed the dynamics of their decision making. It made for an interesting meal.

Our day’s treat was a good friend: Ludger! His wife is Tammy and the four of us have been friends forever. Ludger, Tammy and Bill have known one another even longer than I’ve known any of them. We see one another infrequently, but the love never fails. Tammy keeps an eye on us via Facebook and when she saw we were going to be in Chicago, she let us know Ludger was planning to be there at the same time. She helped to plan a surprise for him.

The Chicago Merchandising Mart

After Le Peep, Bill and I checked out of the hotel, loaded up the car and headed towards the Chicago Merchandise Mart where Ludger was managing his company’s showroom during some market days. We found someplace to park and started looking for Ludger.

When Tammy told us there was a show going on, I imagined a huge convention center type of show with lots of booths and people and badges. “Show” means something different at the Chicago Merchandise Mart. In fact, things were so low key I’m still not convinced there was a show. We were able to walk right to the elevator and make our way to the suite number Tammy had given us. The front entrance of Dallas Trade Mart has a huge desk inside and you’re not going anywhere until you show some credentials. That’s not the case at all in Chicago. No one cares that you are there and you can’t find a soul to help you either.

The “can’t find a soul to help you” part became important when we arrived at the suite number Tammy had given us. There was nothing there. It was an empty, locked up room.

First, we doubted ourselves. We must have just arrived at the wrong place, because we didn’t know where we were going. We couldn’t exactly call up Ludger and say, “Where are you?” It would ruin the surprise.

Then we looked for someone “official” to help us. The closest we came to that was part of the cleaning staff. Let’s just say they were less than helpful. We found an open showroom and asked about Ludger’s showroom. The staff had barely roused themselves to greet us when we walked in and when they found out we were not there to look at their stuff, they proved to be as helpful as the cleaning person.

So we communicated frantically and furtively with Tammy. She communicated frantically and furtively with one of Ludger’s employees. The showroom had moved and soon we were armed with the correct suite number.

We strolled into his showroom and he was giving direction to some of the employees. He politely acknowledge us as if we were potential clients and then did a double take. He said he’d thought to himself, “How odd, they look like my good friends Bill and Jane.” Then he instantly realized it was his good friends, but his mind couldn’t quite accept it.

It was such fun. We had the opportunity to do a little catching up, but he was there to do business and had an appointment. We were there for some sightseeing, so it was just a short visit, but it was wonderful.

Come back next week and we’ll take you to Millennial Park.

Accommodations, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL, United States

Terra & Vine – A Sad Tale

Travel There – Evanston, Illinois

So, I sat down the other day to tell you all about this great restaurant in Evanston, which was just down the street from our hotel. I decided to google it, just to do a little fact checking and make sure my memory matched the experience you would have if you went there. That’s when I found out the restaurant had just recently closed. This was heart-breaking news.

I wanted to tell you about the warm neighborhood feel the restaurant had and about the great patio where we ate our meal. The food was great. The service was great. We were treated like we were one of the valuable locals who frequented the place, even though we weren’t. We hoped we’d be able to come back some day, but we didn’t get back in time.

A Small Town Feel

Now we had just driven through Chicago’s rush hour traffic. As a matter of fact, we got caught in some crazy detour that sent us around and around. All of that was just a few blocks away, but somehow we’d ended up in what felt like a small town.

After our delicious meal at Terra & Vine, we decided to take a stroll. Among the things we found was a Le Peep, a restaurant we loved but had not made it in the Dallas market. We made note for our breakfast plans and continued our very pleasant stroll.

It was really amazing. People would smile, nod their head, even say hello. Even the younger ones, which attended college in nearby buildings, interspersed with residential and business establishments.

Too Much Suitcase Time

When we returned to the hotel, Bill decided to check out the amenities and I took on the job of getting our luggage ready for the next leg of our journey. He came back to the room and decided to take a shower. Then he approached the suitcases and the straw that broke the camel’s back brought some friends.

Mr. Bill is a little bit spoiled. When we arrive at a destination, it is my habit to get us moved into our accommodations, by hanging his stuff in the closet, setting up his toiletries and arranging a drawer for his necessities – only on this trip, we didn’t stay anywhere long enough for that to happen and he’d been living out of our suitcases.

Apparently the biggest problem was that he couldn’t discern any differences in our packing cubes. His are green and black, while mine are solid black, but he’d never realized that. I kept finding my cubes laying open on the bed and wondered if I was losing my mind, but in hindsight we discovered that Bill had been frantically trying to figure out what was mine and what was his for the whole time. All that’s been resolved now, but that evening it was a storm in our teacup.

Come back next week and let’s see some of Chicago!

Architecture, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Mari Vineyards – The Oak Island Winery

Thanks to the Curse We Had a Great Experience

Yep, I’m a fan of The Curse of Oak Island, but Shad, who did all the planning, is not a Lagina Brothers groupie. When he sent me an outline of what he intended for us to do, I did some poking around on the internet. It’s there I saw Mari Vineyards on an attractions map outside Traverse City. I knew this was one of Marty Lagina’s many enterprises and it would not have any direct connection to the TV show I loved, but I still wanted to go. Our host accommodated my desire.

WOW! Is This It?

Fresh off our visit to Black Star Farms, we were hoping for something a bit more, shall we say, engaging. While a covered porch and adjacent farmyard has a certain allure for some people, it’s not exactly my scene. Mari Vineyards suited my taste to a tee. To begin with, the winery sits on a gorgeous piece of real estate, with a commanding view of the area. Even if wine is not your thing, you can’t help but love the view.

As you can see from the first photo, the architecture and accoutrements are also much more upscale. The patio was particularly inviting. I loved the exterior so much I never made it inside, but according to the others, the restroom facilities were nice and the staff was pleasant.

Honestly, however, the wine was not outstanding. I’d give the wine honors to Black Star, but if I was looking for a great way to spend an afternoon, Mari Vineyards would win hands down and I’d probably bring a picnic.

Traveling with Kids

So, I don’t do kids. I like to see them at church and I enjoy my great niece and great nephews in very short spurts, if they can be returned to their parents after a bit, but I don’t dote on them the way some people do. That being said, these kids were pretty great. Major kudos to the parents in both cases. Hannah and Daniel are both obedient, intelligent and respectful.

Hannah is a sweetheart all the way around, perhaps a bit of a Daddy’s girl, but who could blame her Dad when she works so hard to please him.

Daniel is a whole ‘nother ball of wax, a real cut up and slightly naughty. Catching him for a photo was a hit or miss thing. He seemed to know just when to make that face or strike a pose to highlight the imp inside.

Hannah, who is older, can sit quietly and needs little supervision, with or without her ipad. Daniel can sit quietly forever, if he’s playing a game, but once the electronic devise is ripped from his hands, one needs to keep an eye on him and should you fail to do so, he’ll find a way to get your attention.

Wineries are not exactly kid-friendly, so after our second one, we took another tack, visiting the Old Mission Lighthouse. Come back next week and check that out!

Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Grapevine Vintage Railroad

TRAVEL HERE: FORT WORTH STOCKYARDS FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Desperate for some travel-like experiences in the Covid haze, I planned a series of holiday outings, but I’ll be the first to admit things didn’t go as planned. While there’s many a time the thermometer has hovered in the seventies over the holiday season, that was not the case this holiday. Instead, my poor husband suffered a series of weather-related indignities, just so he wouldn’t have to peel me off the wall. Our excursion on the Grapevine Vintage Railroad was just such an experience.

Covid vs. The Weather

During the pandemic, virtually everything you wanted to do, you needed to have reservations. While that seems like a reasonable request, as I mentioned when I talking about the Dallas Arboretum, it just doesn’t work very well in our lives. Bill needs to be in the mood and the weather needs to be nice. During December, Bill was not in the mood, at all, and the weather was pretty awful.

Bill suffers from SAD, a condition related to those people whose emotions can be effected by the lack of certain light rays from the sun. He has special lights in his office and he takes extra vitamins to combat it, but when the weather is lousy, so is his mood. In December the weather was lousy , but in spite of his mood, Bill tried to enjoy the events I scheduled, unlike the weather.

A Rainy and Cold Excursion

The morning of our Grapevine Vintage Railroad excursion was not a pretty one. It was cold and it was trying to rain. There was mostly just a miserable mist, but on occasion it would gather it’s wits about it and give us some actual rain. We drove to Grapevine in the mist, which turned into a pretty nasty rain, just about the time we needed to make a dash to get on the train.

Damp and wet, we turned our reservations in for some souvenir tickets. I’ve got to hand it to the Grapevine Vintage Railroad, their cars are very authentic and they’d done a marvelous job decorating them for the holidays. However, as we settled into our seats the Covid effect was immediate. Everyone had on their masks and those everyone’s were few and far between.

Part of the fun of something like a train excursion it the energy you get from the people around you only none of the people around us were actually close enough to us to share their energy. I know there was a pandemic going on, but this just felt sad in a way that our other attempts at our Staycation had not.

We tried to jolly one another along as the train made it’s way to Fort Worth. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to see. The railway went through industrial areas and neighborhoods, but none of the neighborhoods were very scenic – just one leaning, washed-out privacy fence after another, behind houses desperately in need of maintenance. Preventative maintenance had been ignored about a decade ago. The railway made an attempt to entertain us with a faux train robbery, but with a mostly empty car the failure of it just rattled the windows.

Finally, the Fort Worth Stockyards

As we arrived, others were clamoring to get on, so the initial feel of it was that maybe we were on to something. Then we stepped outside. It was cold, really cold, and while it wasn’t raining or misting, there was enough humidity to make it feel even colder.

We made our way over to the Stock Exchange which was reportedly full of exhibits, museums, food and shops. NOT! And all the reported attractions which were missing from the Stock Exchange must have taken the rest of attractions in the area with them, because nothing was opened with the exception of a few stores and restaurants.

We spent some time in the Stockyards Hotel Lobby and that, at least, was interesting. They did have some historical photos which kept us occupied for awhile. Then we headed on our way along Exchange Avenue. Several of the stores were nothing but junk. Forty million things with Fort Worth Stockyards printed on them and nothing at all that we wanted.

Then, we found out that it was a good thing we didn’t want to be a Cowboy or Cowgirl, because we couldn’t afford it! As we made our way along Exchange Avenue the quality went up and there were no souvenir type slogans printed on things, but the price tags scared us to death. Cowboy boots in multiple thousands, pieces of clothing in the mid to high hundreds. Hats for custom blocking that were astronomical. And the jewelry? Tasteful, but exorbitant.

Getting a Bite at Booger’s

Our watches told us we had a some more time to kill before we could get back on the train and return to Grapevine. We decided to drown our sorrows in some food and drinks. The best option seemed to be Booger Red’s, a restaurant and bar attached to the Stockyards Hotel. We have no complaints, at all, concerning Booger’s. My Margarita was good, as were our quesadillas. The establishment has a Western feel to it and they’ve hung a number of amusing signs around for entertainment.

If you’ve heard of the Fort Worth Stockyards, then you’ve probably heard of Billy Bob’s. On a cold weekday during Covid, nothing was going on there. The other thing you might have heard of was the daily cattle drives. That did happen, but let me tell you, like a lot of small towns in Texas, if you blink you might miss it.

Then we were glad it was time to go. The train ride back was pretty much a repeat of the trip there. We got back to Grapevine and got off the train. We had a close eye on the weather, because the next morning we were supposed to head to Oklahoma and celebrate at a very special Bed and Breakfast Inn. Did we get to do it? Come back next week and find out.

Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Carriage Ride Chilly, Not Charmed

TRAVEL HERE: CINDERELLA CARRIAGE RIDE THROUGH HIGHLAND PARK

I thought it would be an enchanted evening. I dreamed of it for decades. I imagined it as an event shared by friends. I imagined it as an romantic evening for two. I saw it as a typical Texas December evening with temperatures in the 60’s. I saw it as a crisp evening wrapped up in blankets and sipping hot cocoa. I probably thought of every possible version, except the Covid tainted evening I ended up with.

Believe Half of What You See and Less of What You Hear

I’m not sure where I first heard that, but it’s true. The people in this picture look like they are having a marvelous time. Well, They are not.

In my Staycation dreams, Bill and I were going to take a ride in a carriage designed for two. I researched the whole thing and eventually was able to discuss it with Bill to get his stamp of approval, but by the time I got that approval and went back to order our vehicle of romance, all that were left were larger carriages.

As I said, I’d been wanting to do this for a long time and who knew if I’d ever get Bill’s OK again. So, I ordered up the carriage, which by the way was a Cinderella Carriage for up to four people and hoped for the best, even though the larger carriage was more money. It wasn’t that much more, but it was more than we had discussed.

I am convinced that the most trouble I get into comes when I am trying to do good. I knew two things, that I’d paid more than I intended for the carriage ride and that my bestie wanted to take this excursion almost as much as I did. Somehow, all that turned into an invitation for Deb to join us and maybe her son would come along. I’m not sure how that was supposed to jive with the romantic carriage ride I sold Bill, but that’s the road I went down.

The On Hold Music

So, I won’t bother you with all the details, but instead of driving down to Highland Park for our carriage ride with Christmas carols playing on the radio, we were instead treated to the horrendous “on hold” music of one of Bill’s investment brokers. The weather was worse than awful for an outside activity, but worse than the weather was Bill’s attitude. To say things didn’t start out on the right foot would be putting it mildly.

We also got there earlier than we needed to, which always irritates Bill, and that was just one more irritation heaped on several others. Bill and I were barely being civil to one another. It’s a good thing Deb loves us both or she’d have been done with us after that evening.

When our carriage was ready, we stepped out into the COLD, damp, misty evening and climbed aboard. Just a few minutes later, we took this shot. Anybody who says a picture doesn’t lie hasn’t seen this one.

The Meat of the Matter

So, the Highland Park Christmas lights are something to behold even on a bad night. The Cinderella Carriage seemed to fit the festive occasion and we all tried to make the best of what had turned into an ordeal, rather than an excursion. Our driver was really a nice guy and the horse was beautiful.

Our horse also had gas. Yes, I understood that horses sometimes defecate and urinate during their services to human beings. Those deposits fall onto the roadway and are soon left behind. When your horse has gas on a damp evening with no breeze, the funk lingers and lingers and lingers. I have no idea what they’d been feeding this horse, but the odor was foul.

I think you get the picture. My dream carriage ride turned into a nightmare. Not exactly a winner. Come back next week and maybe I’ll do better with my train excursion…maybe!

ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Museums, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

An Afternoon with Nefertari at the Kimball

TRAVEL HERE: QUEEN NEFERTARI VISITS FORT WORTH

Fast Forward to our Staycation. Pre-Covid I planned to spend the Holidays in sunny California enjoying a bargain I scored with Westin. During the year I had planned the trip three different ways, none of which we actually enjoyed. Then I planned a road trip around the Southeast, but rising Covid numbers nixed that, too. So I planned a Staycation. A major event during my Staycation calendar was a visit to the Kimbell Museum in Fort Worth to see Queen Nefertari’s Egypt.

Yes, There Was a Pandemic Going On

A few weeks back I told you about the Flesh & Blood Exhibition we visited at the Kimbell earlier in the year. Mask were de rigueur, but otherwise life at the Kimbell was pretty much the same as always. By the time Nefertari arrived, they’d gotten a whole lot more Covid-conscious. In fact, even the audio tour had been recorded anticipating visitors would be spending more time than usual in line, so there was more intro stuff you were supposed to listen to before you entered.

Bill and I arrived for our visit on a weekday afternoon, so there wasn’t much of a line. Hence I spent my first few minutes in the exhibition trying to coordinate what I was seeing with what I was hearing, so I was audibly handicapped in the first room of the exhibit. On a later visit, shown above, I had the chance to listen to the intro bits the way they were designed to be heard.

There were little arrows on the floor to keep you going in the right direction. That didn’t suit me either. I usually listen to the audio tour as I view the art and Bill walks through occasionally reading a label as he enjoys the pieces on exhibition. Then we backtrack, him showing me what he liked and me explaining the backstory on some of the more esoteric pieces.

So, my first visit to the exhibition, I had to acclimate myself to the new rules. Don’t worry I visited several more times and was able to fully enjoy the whole thing completely, in spite of the Covid-inspired challenges.

Exhibit vs. Egypt

I’ve been to Egypt twice, enjoying most of their famous museums, including the Cairo Museum and the Alexandria Library. Those authentic experiences cannot be replaced by a trip to Fort Worth, but there are things the Kimbell does better than the Egyptians.

Perhaps the most obvious difference is the display cases. In Egypt, the case is crammed full, an overabundance of everything from mummies to faience, the lighting is often nonexistent and the cards explaining things create more questions than they answer . Americans carefully place a few items at eye level, with perfect lighting and cards that give you more information than you need, accompanied by more information on plaques on the walls and audio tours.

Now in Egypt, for a very reasonable fee you can hire a guide to tell you everything the cards and audio tours let you know, but the guides come with challenges of their own. Guides have no off button and you don’t get to select which items you prefer to focus on. They will tell you what they want to, in the order they want to and nothing you can do will slow them down, speed them up or get them to change the subject until they decide to.

American exhibits also seem to make more sense. They carefully curate what will be shown and exhibit it logically. I got tickled during my first visit to the Cairo Museum, mostly because of the randomness of it all. There was no timeline, no themes, nothing I could identify except for room after room of amazing things thrown together willy nilly. The funniest part was the frequency with which I ran into display cases chock full of beads and small figurines of servants for the afterlife. They were virtually everywhere, in every room of the museum, often lined up one after the other along the walls with nothing but signs that said “faience.” I know more now, but then it was baffling.

Queen Nefertari’s Egypt

While there absolutely were numerous items related directly to Nefertari, the title of the exhibit was Queen Nefertari’s Egypt and that was the true focus, rather than the queen herself. What was the role of women? How did religion figure into their daily lives? These were the questions answered by this exhibit. However, some of the most fun display cases were devoted to jewelry and cosmetics. A pair of sandals found in her tomb, thought to be hers, were fascinating.

However, a large part of the exhibit was devoted to Deir el-Medina, the village where all the tomb workers lived. I found it very interesting, because I had actually spent some time in the village on my visit to the Valley of the Kings. A picture on the wall of the exhibit was the same as I have in my scrapbook. I love when I have those moments. Watching a travel show and saying, “We’ve been there,” is a blast.

In the exhibit, they expounded on the religious practices of the citizens of Deir el-Medina, but they missed out on what I thought was the most interesting. These workers, who spent most of their lives preparing an eternal resting place for royalty, spent their days off preparing their own tombs. The walls of the royal tombs were focused on the Book of the Dead, formulas and passages to send the kings and queens to live among the gods. For their own tombs, the workers carved and painted beautiful scenes from everyday life – a table burdened down with foods they loved to eat, rather than ritualistic meals to please the gods; natural wildlife scenes, rather than records of the victories they’d won and the slaves they’d captured. I thought the workers had the better idea of what to commemorate.

It was a marvelous exhibit and I am so proud of the Metroplex for hosting Queen Nefertari, but I wish it had been the DMA. Then next week we’ll ride a Cinderella Carriage through Highland Park. Yep, I ticked that one of my bucket list, too.